Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Twisted knickers

I have come to the conclusion that I am living in the land of twisted knickers. Not a place created by Jonathan Swift as a metaphor for angst about form over substance but a nation that has perhaps more than its fair share of people given air time or print space to grieve about the sky falling in because things just don't look right, or how they think right should look. We had the great hair debate. Knot again. Now, we have speculation about whether the way the PM dressed for a TV/radio press conference this means that his image is the message and that what he said was for nought. I won't spoil my weekend by engaging in a discussion on this. I quote below the reference and ask you to think that if any of the "great" people pictured are taken any less seriously because of how they dressed (in a studio or not), giving a speech on a major topic or not. I think most people living here have intelligence. At least the high literacy rates suggest they do. But some people seem to think that people can't think and need to have the auto-prompt on telling them when to laugh, cry and clap. That they cannot figure out sense from clap-trap because if the image isn't right then everything is wrong.

Here are the key points that raised my eyebrows. (See the full text of an article by Ezra Alleyne in the April 18, 2008 The Nation).

"The format and setting was wrong; Mr Thompson's dress did not "suit" the occasion, and the image received into the collective discomfort of many thousands of Barbadian homes, lacked the gravitas one usually associates with prime ministers speaking to the country on matters of high national concern. Style or manner of dress is an important messenger, speaking a language of its own. As in the case of a reputation, it can precede the wearer like a fasciculus [a slender bundle of anatomical fibers--my clarification] of bad tidings. An opened-neck tieless blue shirt, covered by a dark jacket, supported by a pair of trousers of a non-matching and lighter colour, creates the infertile ground in which political credibility dies a thousand quick deaths. The image thereby becomes the message."

Here below is the offending ragamuffin. I think the problems started when someone called him "David" in public; someone who had known him from childhood and for that offence should have been struck like Goliath. See my previous post on the PM's press conference.

Now, do you really think that Russia is any less of a world power or a weaker nuclear threat when you see President Putin in his staged "he-man" holiday picture? I remember working with a team of economists in Russia in the early 1990s and being kept waiting for several days to meet ministers and officials, whom we saw entering and leaving, but were told were "not in". In one meeting, when things were not going as our Russian hosts would like they reminded us that despite the fall of the Berlin Wall "Russia is still a nuclear power".

Does Apple sink into the ranks of obscure companies of the 20th-21st centuries because Steve Jobs always wears his "uniform" of black turtle neck sweater and jeans when he has major announcements to make? Just go junk that i-Pod and don't waste your time thinking that an i-Phone is anything less than phony

I used to think that Al Gore was a real thinker when he was US Vice President, but since he lost the election to George W. Bush and then discovered the environment, I have no respect for him. Look how he dresses when he talks to the world about global warming and the risks of climate change. Would you give a man like this a Nobel Prize?

Now, at least some of the world's important women political figures know how to dress properly and they are given the due consideration that befits their constant attention to high dress standards

Being a billionaire should not give you to right to dress anyway you like and think that your money is a reflection of the business sense you have. If you dressed better you would be richer. So, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, you should spend a few of those dollars on some good clothes. Disgrace!

Oh, lawdy! Weapons of mass destruction are going to be raining down on us all now. The President of the United States in an airforce bomber jacket and talking serious politics with the British Prime Minister (him with his hands tucked into his pants pocket like some wide boy)? They must be joshing, right. It's not possible that they have anything important to tell us about terrorism and the need for the western political alliance to hold together to get rid of this scourge. They only have control over our lives when they have on their suits, so at least for this moment, we were free people.

If that wasn't enough, how on earth could Tony Blair expect to stay on as PM in Britain after he was seen on television praising France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, wearing an outfit that defies description for its utter casualness. The fact that he was trying to (Sar) cozy up to the French by speaking their language only makes you wonder more what the man was thinking, and if in fact he had not already lost his marbles. For those who do not understand what he is saying, it includes some stuff about the importance of the British-French political alliance. But who's listening? (Watch the video and decide for yourself. Remember, this is a man who is a regular holiday maker in Barbados. You see where the rot sets in.) At least now that it is President Sarkozy, and he has his elegant, ex-model new wife, Carla Bruni, style and elegance will soon get back into politics and the world will be a better place with peace and plenty for all.

Well, President Clinton (the first and so far only) tried to be a man of the people and they say that he had way of putting you at ease--a personal touch even. But, that yellow shirt! Imagine that he earned US$ 31 million in speaking fees between 2001 and 2005 dressed like that. Put on a suit and your takings would triple. Bill 'em, Bill.

Back in 1999 there was a lovely story about politicians' attempts to make fashion statements. Reports from the presidential campaign then told of George W. Bush going from cowboy boots to black shoes so that he would look more serious, and Al Gore gave up shoes in favor of cowboy boots so he would appear less serious. Well, we know the outcome of the 2000 presidential elections. Need I say more?

Kenya's parliament had a major spat about dress code in 2003 (see BBC report). Several politicians created uproar when they dressed in traditional African robes and other forms of traditional attire, which were against the rules from the days of colonial rule. Do you think that Kenya would have had the political upheaval they have had recently if these politicians, including Raila Odinga, had never gone out of suits?

Does it matter what you wear? You can read some views (see article) and I will let you decide.


Anonymous said...

could it be that the call-in programme crowd just needs something to complain about?

what is interesting is that female leaders (and women in general)are usually the ones whose dress is held up for scrutiny but increasingly we are seeing this critical eye turned to the male body as well.

Bajan commentator said...

When is the next one way airplane to Russia? He-Man Putin looking good.

Don't mind Ezra Alleyne writing about David Thompson's clothes. We Bajans do not taka Ezra seriously and you musn't either. Ezra is a BLP hack ok. Have you even seen Ezra? I have. He is NOT a picture of sartorial elegance, in fact far from.

Jdid said...

you know the british left us this legacy of pomp and circumstance that we in Barbados a mere satrapy have embraced more than our so called colonisers.

in other words bajans try to be more proper and british than the actual british.

To be honest I see nothing wrong with his outfit but clearly the reader wanted a suit and tie. Did the occasion merit one? Possibly but I'd argue that once he was serious enough in his demeanor and presentation there was no need for a suit. Its a bit different to the interviewee who shows up in t-shirt and track pants for an interview about an office position(and yes i've personally seen that once).

hey maybe the Bajan PM needs a stylist